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A Cure for Wellness

Psychological thrillers have always captured audience’s attentions. Director Alfred Hitchcock was a master in conjuring emotional terror with films such as ‘Rebecca’, ‘North by Northwest’ and ‘Psycho’. Those films played on our fears of the unknown and whether a character will suddenly snap for no reason. Whilst not in Hitchcock’s same creative league, ‘A Cure for Wellness’ shares several similarities. It proves a slow-burning thriller can successfully creep up on you by delivering surprises until a shocking denouncement.

When ambitious executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is asked to retrieve his company’s CEO from a ‘wellness centre’, little does he know what he’s in for. A mysterious place nestled within the Swiss Alps, the centre’s miracle cures are a source of perplexing questions. Lockhart aims to find answers by talking to its head Doctor, Volmer (Jason Isaacs). As he begins to question his own sanity, Lockhart’s life unravels in a place where the cure is usually worse than the disease.

‘A Cure for Wellness’ is a visually striking film directed with panache by Gore Verbinski. It’s far from perfect and does suffer from over-length and huge plot holes. When it works it fires on full cylinders with Verbinski successfully ensuring tension slowly percolates. It thematically mirrors the Leonardo DiCaprio film ‘Shutter Island’, although ‘A Cure for Wellness’ takes time to delve into its many mysteries. Although the run-time could have been trimmed, it allows for characters to make their mark.

The script allows you to decipher its many riddles without treating you like a child. Not many commercial minded films are like that now, with ‘A Cure for Wellness’ an enjoyable puzzle to solve. It’s easy following the clues due to the smart direction and DeHaan’s and Isaacs’ solid performance. Isaac especially delivers a character of steely menace suitably conveying the films’ gothic horror trappings. It almost plays like an old Hammer Horror movie with a multitude of delicious twists and gaudy scenery.

Whilst the plot does deviate from the central theme occasionally and is a little long, ‘A Cure for Wellness’ makes a refreshing change from the usual blockbusters. It goes for sinister elements with gusto with the visuals sure to chill the atmosphere long after the final reel.

Rating out of 10: 7

Loving

Although set in the late 1950’s, ‘Loving’s topic of racism is still relevant. It’s a sad thing to say 60 years after the events it depicts. The more you think society has progressed, the less it actually has. Attitudes today are much better even if there is still a long way to go. ‘Loving’ explores these issues with sensitivity and gives hope no one will have to talk about racial prejudice in another 60 years.

Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are a newly and happily married couple. They are unusual for middle-America in 1958 as Richard is white and Mildred is black. Ruffling the feathers of bigots in the small community in which they reside, the chorus of disapproval is led by Sherriff Brooks (Marton Csokas). Faced with claims their marriage is illegal due to outdated laws, they begin a long legal battle for equality. Their fight against ignorance takes an emotional toll with their enduring love holding them together.

A flawed but interesting movie ‘Loving’ occasionally plays like a heavy history lesson. This feeling is further highlighted by Edgerton’s and Negga’s performances. Although portraying a loving couple desperate for their basic marital rights, there’s never a sense of genuine bond between them. The actors play their roles far too low-key with their morose outlook making them a couple hard to like. Whilst the situation they’re in is hardly one for levity, the chemistry the characters should convey is rarely seen.

Blame could be laid at director Jeff Nichols although he delivers an otherwise engaging tale despite his actors. The appalling treatment Richard and Mildred suffered is shown in a matter of fact way without melodrama. The script allows you to interpret what’s happening and mainly avoids doing the usual clichés of ‘goodies vs baddies’. The motivation behind the racism is explored and, while still repugnant, this element brings more depth to the drama.

‘Loving’ should have been better with only a few stand-out moments making it shine. They say those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Sadly that’s true with equality for all still raging. But the message of not putting up with established, unfair laws is one ‘Loving’ expresses well and something all viewers should never forget.

Rating out of 10: 6